by Polly Gwinn, July 2007
We would be amazed, surprised, stunned or perhaps even appalled at the number of Christians that use Matthew 6:6 as a guideline, an excuse or justification of their prayer life. "When you pray, go into your closet, close the door and pray to your Father"! Why do we insist on keeping our prayers in the closet when we have drug everything else out of it? Nothing in this world is discrete anymore! Take five minutes to watch a talk show and see that all it takes to bare the uttermost secrets is to have a camera on the person. Private lives are aired; sexual immorality is spoken of in terms that would make a dead person blush. Homosexuality is the fad of the times and bodies are exposed whether they are attractive or not. The language used in homes, on television and in
When Jesus said to go into your room (closet) to pray, He was talking to the hypocrites, "for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men" (Matthew 6:5). He warned them not to do their acts of righteousness to be seen by men and not to babble on like the pagans, thinking you, like the pagans, will be heard. Paul says to pray continually, in all circumstances and this would be hard to do if we only prayed in our closet (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus tells us that whoever acknowledges Him before men, He will acknowledge them before His Father (Matthew 10:32). If you only talk (acknowledge) Jesus in your closet and also before men then your closet might become quite crowded. Jesus went away in private many times to pray to the Father but He also prayed publicly. "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me" (John 11:41-42). Think maybe if we prayed to our Father aloud in the presence of non-believers that this would make them believe? He prayed aloud, looking up into the heaven for the deaf man’s ears to be opened (Mark 7:34). And the greatest public prayer that Jesus ever prayed; "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani" (Mark 15:34).
After Jesus explained to His disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit, His Resurrection and now to ask in prayer to the Father in His name, He then looked toward heaven and prayed. First He prayed for Himself (John 17:1-5) and then for His disciples (John 17:6-19) and then He prayed for all believers, including you and me (John 17:20-26). Scripture does not actually say if He was alone when He prayed these prayers or if He did it publicly, but I personally believe He prayed so that all might hear; "He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 11:15).
"Now these things occurred as examples" (1 Corinthians 10:6), speaking of Israel’s history mostly in the form of warnings against pagan revelry, idolatry and testing the Lord. I truly believe this includes prayer for I can assure you that the saints of the Old Testament did pray and cry out to God. God assured His people that if they would pray and seek His face He would hear from heaven and forgive them (2 Chronicles 7:14). Daniel brought to our attention that all of Jerusalem had sinned, been wicked and rebelled therefore the curses written in the Law of Moses was poured out on them. Then he, Daniel, prayed! He prayed until Gabriel came with an answer (Daniel 9:4-23). The Israelites begged the Lord for help (Jude 3:9), David prayed with tear flooded eyes (Psalm 39:12) and the Church prayed Peter out of prison (Acts 12:5). Paul urged the family of God to pray for him (Romans 15:30-31) and each other (Ephesians 6:18). James instructs us to pray for the sick with anointing oil (James 5:14-18), John said pray for other’s sins (1 John 5:16) and even the martyred saints in heaven cry out in a loud voice to God (Revelation 6:9-11).
If the world is going down hill, if our youth are not saved, if our neighbors are not in church and our prayers seem to go unanswered, maybe we are not crying out loudly enough. I do not mean to suggest that God is hard of hearing or that He cannot see and hear us if we continue to pray within our closets! I am strongly suggesting that if we wait until we find a closet to enter for prayer we are not praying enough. Pray out loud, in a whisper, standing, sitting, kneeling, walking or riding, but for the world’s sake, please pray. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayers" (1 Peter 3:12). The Father heard the prayers of His Son (Hebrews 5:7) and He was made perfect. We too, will be made perfect through Jesus Christ, showing diligence to the very end, imitating those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebres 5:11-6:1-12). Whether in my closet or outside of my closet, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (Philippians 1:4-7).